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Characterisation

  • Trevor Johnson
Chapter
Part of the Macmillan Master Guides book series

Abstract

What has just been said about Fielding’s lawyers will help the reader to understand why I have juxtaposed this section and the preceding one. Fielding states, quite unequivocally, in Book Ill, Chapter 1: ‘I declare here, once for all, I describe not men, but manners, not an individual but a species.’ If what we mean by character then, is the depiction of an individual with ‘all its minute sinuousities, its depths and its shallows’ — which was Sir Walter Scott’s description of Richardson’s treatment of characterisation — we shall not find much of it in Joseph Andrews. And Richardson himself, writing to Fielding’s sister (after Fielding’s death) to compare her novel with her brother’s work, said, ‘His [Fielding’s] was but as the knowledge of the outside of a clockwork machine, while yours was that of all the finer springs and movements inside.’ Aside from what it reveals of Richardson’s unsleeping malice — he hated Fielding in spite of the admiration his rival had publicly expressed for Clarissa — the seeds are sown here of a long running critical debate about the nature of the novel generally, about whether the novelist should concern himself primarily with the ‘journey within’ like, say, Jane Austen, George Eliot and Henry James or with the ‘journey without’ like Smollett, Dickens and Thackeray.

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Copyright information

© Trevor Johnson 1987

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  • Trevor Johnson

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